By JoAnn Hollars, Pastor’s Wife
Ada Baptist Temple
Ada, Oklahoma

I have been a long-distance grandma for quite a few years. It’s really been about 13 years ago when our son-in-law Stewart and daughter Donna decided to go to Canada to be missionaries. At that time they had only two of our grandchildren, Delayna and Julianna. My mom and I made two trips on the train to Canada to be there for the birth of the other two Seth and Jesse. I always had a little fear that my grandchildren wouldn’t know me that well because they wouldn’t be able to see much of me with all those miles between us. I was afraid we wouldn’t have a closeness that I desired. Thankfully, it didn’t happen that way at all.

My daughter began to help me a lot with ideas from time to time which helps even my brain to expand with more ideas. I always had to mail boxes to them with items they couldn’t get on the mission field, so every time I had a box to mail, I would stick something in for each of the kids. I learned all the ways of mailing things too.

One day she gave me a great book titled Long-Distance Grandma by Janet Teisort. The chapter starts with January and goes through December to give you ideas for each month. I’m glad I have this excellent book.

I want to share two ideas that I have done that were the best. I now have nine grandchildren, ranging from two to sixteen years old. Four of them live in the Dominican Republic, three live in North Carolina, one lives in Texas, and one lives in Missouri.

One idea I used was when the kids were one or two years old. I set up a video camera and set up an area and begin reading story books to them. Sometimes I would change the settings to outdoors or other places. Once I filled the video with stories, I mailed it to them. She said the kids love that and still do. It has helped them to know who I was as they watch me live everyday.

Another idea I have implemented that they love is what I call a “birthday extravaganza.” I am only able to do this about every three years, and even the adults enjoy this. I have to really stay on top of this idea because I have to get it mailed out a month before the birthday. I make a list of all the kids with their birthday. Then I collect a medium- to a large-size box for each grandchild and put them in a place where they won’t be in the way for a while. I write each grandchild’s name on a box so that each one receives a box.

Then I begin shopping with each grandchild in mind. Every year I send a “getting-to-know-you” sheet to each person in each family so that I will always know what they like. As they grow up, their likes change. This sheet is patterned after the ones we use for secret pals in our ladies’ groups.

I shop at dollar stores, thrift stores, garage sales and clearance racks. And I buy things as I see them. As I get the items, I drop them in the boxes according to the child’s requests. Once the box has 30 to 31 gifts in it, I lay them out on a table or bed—1 through 31. I do alternate the big gifts and the little gifts, and I try to have a really nice one on the actual birthday.Then I begin wrapping them one by one. I write my grandchild’s name and the date the gift is to be opened on the outside of the wrap. When I get every gift wrapped, I arrange them back in the box for mailing. I mail the box early enough to arrive before their birthday month so they can get them in order to open a gift every day of that month. I try to shop carefully and wisely, and I usually only spend from $25 to $35 on each one which is about what we would spend if we were buying a “regular” present. I usually don’t give the babies up to two years old a birthday extravaganza because they really don’t understand.

This past year, I did one for my two daughters, the two sons-in-laws my daughter-in-law, seven of the grandchildren, and even my mom and dad, They all loved it. I honestly think I receive more joy out of it than they did! Then surprise of surprise, my kids turned around and did it for me! What fun! Yes, it’s a lot of work, but fun.

Email, Skype, and send lots and lots of pictures. I use to make books using my pictures. My daughter Donna does that for us every year for Christmas. Those are memories and keepsakes that we will always treasure. I have found there are so many ways you can enjoy your grandkids—even if they live in distant places.